Michael – So let’s talk about the two examples of “common workflows” you gave. The first is an interesting one because it actually illustrates the basic strength of the simple approach to UI as found in the iPhone OS…

“taking a photo you’ve been sent in an email, putting it in a photo editor, making some changes, adding a caption, and uploading it to facebook, and then to flickr.”

I just did this today on my iPhone. I saved the photo from my email into my photo library. I then opened up my Facebook app (but could have done it from the site) and added it to my album. I could also have edited the photo in one of the five apps on my phone that all do a fantastic job of tweaking my photos. The beauty is how simple it was. I didn’t have to deal with the file system directly and it was a simple step-by-step path through the task ANYONE can do. Heck, I’ve heard time and time again that iPhone/Touch users PREFER the iPhone versions of apps to using the website (certainly true in the case of the Facebook app)... Easier to read and use.

Second Example: “Or opening a document from an email, editing it, and then saving it as a PDF to Evernote, or uploading the PDF to Dropbox or to your website.”

This doesn’t sound like something ANY of the people I mentioned in my article would ever consider and certainly not a “simple workflow” as you stated. My friend the remodeler doesn’t even know what a PDF is. And the other two folks would never use something like Evernote. If this example is an indication of the audience you have in mind, then I think you missed the point of my article.

That said, what’s so great about the iPhone OS is that there’s at least one app for just about everything the typical user uses a computer for. It’s actually remarkable. And what’s more, the developers of the Facebook app or the Dropbox app know what their users want much better than Apple and will tailor their apps accordingly.

Apple and the makers of these apps understand that meeting the needs of the non-technical person in a simple way is much more important than making an app that does everything. It’s much better for the end user to choose from a whole library of apps that all do individual tasks VERY WELL. And taken as a whole, it’s enough for 90% of the population. It’s this insistence on simplicity that makes the whole approach so elegant for the average joe and so infuriating to people who use “real computers” as they like to phrase it.

I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying if it’s a technical user we’re talking about. But once again, I’m specifically NOT talking about folks like you or me. The people getting excited about the iPad are everyone else and the geeks who have to support them. I for one, will be buying one for my mom, if only to stop the barrage of tech support requests.

posted by Rob Foster on Thursday, Feb 04, 2010